Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A Sentimental Trip Home to Texas through a Phone Call

This is Ray Shotwell and me. I believe I was a senior in high school. 

I am not a phone person. Never been the kind of gal who likes to sit and talk for a long time without being able to see someone. I don’t know why. So many times I’ve heard my friends say things like, “Were you angry on the phone? You sounded sick when I called. You don’t like talking on the phone, do you?”

The last positive comment I remember about me and the phone was a long time ago when a roommate told me, “We always know when you are talking to your folks, Robbie. You laugh and laugh. And sometimes you cry.”

My mom died 20 years ago. My dad 11 years ago. I miss those phone calls.

But this weekend, God gave me a gift through a phone call.

If you’ve read my book, Cecelia Jackson’s Last Chance, you may remember two characters named Mark and Cathy Kildwell. Mark was the mortician of Boots, Texas. Well, those two folks are the only characters based 100% on real people.

Ray and Carol Shotwell moved into my hometown of Van Horn, Texas, when I was 15. I immediately liked Ray. He was extremely funny and playful and his wife Carol was always kind and a definite straight-woman to Ray’s joking personality. Looking back, I can’t believe I only lived in the same town with them for 3 years. It feels as if I’ve known them forever.

Ray and Joe King, our pastor, were the recipients of several practical jokes at the hands of our youth group. They gave back, too. The water balloon incident I tell in my novel is completely true. Instead of Cecelia locking the door to keep me and my friends out, it was Mom. When I told them about my book, Carol asked if I included the time my friend Darla and I broke into Ray and Carol's house and sewed up the legs of Ray's bermuda shorts. I didn't. :) We got in so much trouble for that. 

I emailed Carol and Ray last week and asked them if they liked my novel. In response, they called me.

During our over-an-hour chat, I sat back in a chair and got comfy, as if I was going to watch a long movie. Even as I did it, I thought, “This is new. For a phone call?”

But oh my goodness, hearing their Texas twangy accents, listening to them tell stories and laugh and catch me up on everything, took me home. Home like sitting in the kitchen while Mama worked on hamburger gravy for supper. Home like watching Daddy varnish fiddles and smelling the sweet tang as my eyes followed his hands of expertise. Home like I felt when I got on the phone with my folks, laughing and crying.


Ray and Carol aren’t old enough to be my parents, but they talk to me as if I was theirs. They’ve never had kids, but they’ve parented and guided many, including me. At one point in the conversation I said, “I think I’m on Facebook too much.” Carol immediately said, “Yes, you are, Robbie.”

I laughed so hard. It sounded exactly like what Sally Ann Floyd would say to me.

They loved my book and ended our conversation telling me they loved me like I was their own. I hung up and started bawling. I miss my folks, but I wasn’t crying out of grief. The tears fell because with one phone call I’d travelled home. It was a time of teenage angst and pranks, of dreaming and teaming up with my cohorts. A time when I discovered the joy of Jesus. Ray and Carol played a major role back then and so to hear their voices took me back, like a certain smell will remind me of our old house on Summer Street or a Bee Gee’s song will take me back to the Van Horn Community Center.

I told John about it all and we are going to take a trip sometime to Humble, Texas where Ray and Carol now live. I want to reconnect in person and hug their necks. I also want them to meet my boy, 15 year old Noah. I will present him to them like I’m showing my report card with all A’s to my folks. He and Ray will be fast friends, I’m sure. 


mama2banny said...

Rob, you just took me home too!!

Robbie Iobst said...

Oh Alana, Van Horn symbolizes a lot of great things for me. So glad you were part of my childhood, friend! :)

Susy said...

Did you revert to your Southen accent when you talked to them? That always happened with you when you talked to people from your childhood.

Lisasmith1970 said...

I love this! Even though I didnt grow up with just transported me into your youth. I could read your writings all day long. The reason you read is to get away and you have a talent of taking me where I want to go.

Robbie Iobst said...

Susy, I don't think so. Ray and Carol have an AMAZING twang. At one point I said to Carol that I just LOVED her accent. Of course she said in all seriousness, "I have an accent?" :)

Robbie Iobst said...

Thank you Lisa! You are such an encourager in my life! :)